THIS coming week is the peak of Christmas craziness in our house. There are cards to write, parcels to send, school kris kindles to sort, a tree to decorate, work parties galore and, to top it all off, a school fair that requires some serious cake baking.
It’s easy to get yourself in a state when silly season descends but it doesn’t help one bit. First, clear your mind by making a to-do list. Pour everything out of your brain that’s causing chaos in there to help you gain a little perspective.
Once you’ve done this, don’t get cracking on that list straight away! Some grounding work is invaluable, especially paired with deep shoulder stretches to de-stress. Everyone in my yoga classes — including me! — has their shoulders hunched up to their ears at this time of year with all the festive stress and cold weather.
CENTRE YOURSELF FIND something to use as a strap (a tie or a pair of tights, for example) and grab a cushion or pillow. Sit cross-legged on your cushion in a comfortable, quiet spot.
(Alternatively, kneel or sit in a chair.) Connect the thumb and forefinger of each hand and relax your palms down on your knees. Move the crown of your head towards the ceiling, relax your shoulders and feel the belly soften. Bring your attention to your face. Close your eyes, relax the jaw (run your tongue between your teeth and then let it relax) and soften the space between your eyebrows.
When you feel ready, bring your attention to your breath. Notice what you notice: is your inhale longer than your exhale? What part of the body moves as you breathe? Is your breath smooth or maybe a little jagged around the edges? Don’t judge; simply explore your natural breath. Continue to do this for a few minutes.
1. HOLD your strap with about 50cm between your hands (this will vary depending on arm length and shoulder flexibility). Inhale and raise your hands, keeping your arms as straight as possible.
Exhale and bend your elbows to bring the strap down behind your head. Adjust the strap if necessary and repeat 10-20 times.
2. INCREASE the distance between your hands to about an arm’s length. Inhale and extend your arms overhead.
Exhale and bring the strap behind you in a big arc, keeping your arms as straight as possible at all times. Focus on moving both arms at the same time — one will want to move first! Repeat 10-20 times.
3. RAISE one hand overhead and take the other behind your torso, keeping your arms as straight as possible.
Inhale and bring the top hand down as you raise the lower hand.
Exhale and return to your starting position. Repeat 10-20 times.
RE-CROSS your legs so your other shin is at the front, even if it feels a bit weird. Adjust your posture as before, close the eyes and come back to your breath. Feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Sit and focus on the soft movement in your belly for a few minutes. Now you’re ready to face that to-do list — and maybe look at what tasks on it are truly necessary for you and your loved ones to have a very happy Christmas. For me, that might mean scrapping the baking and buying a tray bake, to be cut into slightly wonky pieces and taken in a tin to the school fair…
If you have a question email email@example.com. Follow This Is Yoga on Facebook and Instagram; thisisyoga.ie. First published in the Irish Daily Mail on December 11, 2018